Monday, 29 February 2016

Jumia’s Modern Slave Camp in Nigeria

…How the management has been Maltreating their Nigerian Staff

Slavery is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as submission to a dominating influence. Though it has been about 150 years since slave trade was abolished, it is however a normal thing in some parts of the world for some people to stylishly position themselves in such a way that there is little difference between them and the slave masters of old. In a practice that can be said to be modern-day slavery, and it is mostly practised by governments, organisations and people who feel they are way above the common man. Recent investigation revealed a modern slavery may have emerged in Nigeria in Jumia Nigeria, if truly slavery means forcing people to doing things they otherwise wouldn’t have wanted to do.

It all started some months back, when on a visit to the Area G police headquarters, Ogba, Lagos, a staff of Jumia Nigeria was detained and locked up, even when the allegation against him lacked merit. The case involved a staffer, who was in the processing department, accused of collecting an IPhone 6 belonging to a merchant and absconding with it. But, whereas he was on afternoon shift and therefore was not permitted to enter into the premises before 1:15pm, when he will be resuming for work – to close by 9:30pm – the phone was missing by 9 a.m., a clear indication that the phone could not be traced in any way to him.

He was detained for days on the instruction of Jumia, which insisted  that he must write a statement accepting that he was responsible for the missing phone. While this was ongoing his salary was stopped on the pretext that it was being used to pay for the phone he was being forced to admit stealing. The way and manner of the whole case raised eyebrows and, on a closer look, it was discovered that his dilemma started when it was discovered by the management of Jumia that the staff in question had been sending out applications for positions in other organisations.
Juliet Amamah Jumia Nigeria MD

This principle of the company we traced to the not-too-attractive condition of service Jumia, a company owned by the Internet Rocket Media Group, France, put their staff. Information made available by some staff is that the working rules change from time to time, depending on the mood of the management. The sources stated that the company decided in the last two years not to confirm the appointments of staff, contrary to the agreement of a six-month probation period they signed. The management is also said to be very aggressive whenever they discover a staff is putting in applications to better their lot. Another incident is the case involving a staff whose mail box was hacked by the company, a situation that led to the management accusing the lady in question of selling company secrets to its competitor, after which she decided hand in her resignation. But even that was rejected and she was forced to sign for her letter of termination of employment, which was typed while she was held by the company security. She was further threatened that she would be locked up if she refused to sign for receipt of the termination-of-appointment letter.

The condition the company is said to subject its staff, especially those in processing, who have to stand for several hours with no break even when there is little or nothing to be done, is another cause for concern. Sources revealed that staffers stand for 10 hours, with no allowance for that. Further investigation also revealed that, in the case of missing items Jumia is quick to deduct such from the salary of the workers, but will never make refunds even when the items are later found.

As if the way they handle their staff is not bad enough, the manner in which they handle their merchants and customers is equally with disdain. Some of their merchants complained how the company also never follows signed agreements, as products damaged under the care of Jumia are not paid for by the company as signed in their agreement, thereby causing them series of losses. The company’s tepid attitude to its customers’ complaints is the reason customers now only pay after the goods delivered have been tested.

Efforts made to get the company’s side yielded little result, as the phone call and e-mail to the management was referred to Bertille Guitton, the Head of Communications and Public Relations of Jumia, who explained that staff are well treated. In her words: “We do not work 10 hours a day without sitting down or other assumptions. Jumia complies with every labour law put in place in this country as well as international standards, as we are an international company whose headquarters are based in Paris.

 “We pay Jumia staff the right amount that is stated in their contracts. Every single aspect of the contract that the employee has agreed to is respected. We created more than 2000 jobs in Nigeria in less than three years, and our employees adhere to our set of values, which is very high here. Whether you are a Managing Director or an operator, we expect everyone to have an exemplary behaviour at work, when meeting and dealing with clients, our shareholders, and evidently our vendors.’’ 

She concluded on a warning note: “We have a full-fledged legal service and we are compliant with every law in Nigeria.”

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